Some of it is by design, don’t be mistaken. When the Chicago Blackhawks roster was constructed, there were those who grumbled at how it was put together and how it was just enough to get the job done.
But would it be enough to keep them respectable?
So far it has. But the 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon hurt more because it was Chicago’s first chance to really size themselves up against a team that many thought they could handle.
Instead, the same problems returned that has hurt them in the last three losses–even with Taylor Hall back in the lineup who has helped the offense when he’s healthy.
But the issues remain that will at times this season, make it a wash-rinse-repeat cycle for Blackhawks fans tuning in.
Special Teams Anything But Right Now
The Blackhawks penalty kill was a top-ten unit three week ago, but has sunk to 18th in the league. That isn’t terrible–but it’s a hard fall since placing sixth back on October 28th. The power play went 0/2 on Saturday, its efficiency at 12% and good for 27th in the league. Studying the heat map from Natural Stat Trick, the pressure is almost non existent. It’s not as if they haven’t been effective, either. Lukas Reichel buried one on the power play against Tampa Bay on Thursday.
But a glance at that heat map versus where Nashville was buzzing around and it’s evident as to why the two had contrasting experiences. Even the heat map from Thursday night showed a stronger presence in the high danger areas.
Scoring has been the real issue as the Hawks are 30th in the league with 38 goals. They’ve had just two apiece in their past two games and this season alone, they’ve scored three or more goals just seven times this season.
Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson spoke to it a bit postgame on Thursday.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re supposedly the top line or the fourth line,” Richardson said. “Our third and fourth lines tonight, they skated and gave us some energy and we got the one goal in the third period from them.” So I was happy with that. But you know what? We don’t have a whole lot of depth in our organization yet.”
Going in the Right Direction–But Work to Do
Nor should it. Look, the stark reality is that the Blackhawks are competing nightly, but will struggle against the teams rolling three or four very strong lines. You know who they are: Tampa Bay, Florida, Vegas, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Toronto to name a few.
All opponents this season–some multiple times.
So when a Nashville, San Jose, or Calgary rolls around, those are the games they have to take advantage of. The next few weeks will be interesting in that there won’t be a lot of multiple off days for Chicago. It will be a game, an off day, and then another game.
Maybe a consistent routine will help. Perhaps it will hurt more as wear and tear starts to affect things.
Whatever it is, while there’s improvement from last season, the Hawks will have to push harder at times to compensate for some of what they don’t have. There’s a lot of pride in the locker room and it’s heard from often.
It’s just getting a full 60 minute performance on a more regular occasion. Sometimes that takes time, but at least there’s improvement.
“It’s obviously better than last year at the end of the year and it’s starting to grow,” Richardson said. “That shows signs that we can throw different people in different times and usually it goes in on the bottom and it gets pushed upward–so that’s a good sign. We’re going to be reliable in the bottom six and that’s hard to do in this League.”